Review Summary: Another supergroup that's more group, less super.
The idea of a rock supergroup is more enticing as a thought experiment than it is a reality. There have been many examples over the years of big names coming together to salvage their careers with hype. In almost all of these instances, the results have been less than the sum of their parts. And yet, we continue to see these groups spring up, hoping to capture the spark of a group of musicians in the right place at the right time. Chickenfoot is not one of these groups.
Chickenfoot is constructed from pieces that don't look like they should fit together. Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony spent time together in the Mach II lineup of Van Halen, Chad Smith is the drummer of the funk/pop/rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Joe Satriani is a guitar wizard known for his technical proficiency. That, and suing Coldplay for ripping him off. At first glance, these four men don't have much in common from a musical standpoint, but there is more beneath the surface than we have been shown.
The odd man out is obviously Satriani, a shredder by trade who's instrumental exercises helped create and advance the wave of masterful players who use their music as a means of communicating their abilities with their instrument. Satriani has always had a melodic flare that many of his followers have not, and Chickenfoot shows that he is a chameleon, able to move from genre to genre without missing a beat. The Satriani of Chickenfoot is not the Satriani that we have been shown before, leaving behind his indulgences, and delivering an album of bare bones classic rock.
Sammy Hagar shows that Eddie Van Halen picked the wrong man for the band's reunion, his voice as strong as it was in his heyday. For a man approaching 60, his power is amazing. He has the voice, but does not put it to the best use. Never a poet, his lyrics here are rudimentary and bordering on self-parody. Songs about women, partying, and falling asleep in front of the TV might be acceptable fodder for bands like Blink-182, but fall flat when coming from middle-aged rock stars. Hagar sells the songs as best he can, but with such little material to push, the effort goes for nothing. Satriani has reigned himself in, showing none of his usual flare, constructing every song from simple two-riff structures. With a running time approaching an hour, the repetitiveness of the backdrop becomes stale.
"Avenida Revolution" is an odd, but fitting, choice for an opener. The song eases in on a slow burn, teasing the riff before allowing it to grow. The riff is simple, reminiscent of the classic rock that dominated these men's youths. Satriani's guitar sounds massive, pumping out the riff in a vintage tone, setting the stage for Hagar. The song goes nowhere, the melodies stiff and lifeless. The chorus is almost non-existent, a problem that plagues the rest of the album.
Satriani tries to rescue the material, but cannot do it alone. "Soap On A Rope" has a bouncing groove-laden riff that marks the best moment of the album. "Sexy Little Thing" features a shimmering riff that chimes out a classic sound, while "Get It Up" sounds like a lost Stone Temple Pilots song, both musically and lyrically. The rest of the songs offer little that is new, retreading riffs that have been played a hundred times before, capping them off with Hagar's cliche phrasing. Nowhere do we get an indication of the talent this band possesses, each member seemingly playing down their strengths in an effort to blend in. Unfortunately, they blend so well that they become faceless.
The best song on the album is, without a doubt, "My Kind Of Girl", a retro rock stomper with Michael Anthony delivering his signature background vocals to reinforce the best hook on the album. Hagar sounds inspired for the first time, and it becomes clear why these men came together and formed the band. The energy is apparent, and as the song locks together, we catch a glimpse of why all supergroups form. For a few moments, this band has created something special that makes us forget about their pasts. It is simply great music.
Chickenfoot is a pleasing diversion on a summer day, but was doomed from the start. Living up to the reputations of its members was never going to be possible, and only makes the disappointment of the shortcoming more obvious. Chickenfoot may still become a great band one day, but they have a long way to go.